A departure from my usual politi-centric ramblings — but a worthwhile one.
A movie all but guaranteed to inspire the musician hiding in your soul and, at the same time, bring tears to the eyes of those of you who find joy in a child’s dreams coming true. The movie is August Rush and the fine young actor Freddie Highmore plays Evan Taylor, the boy who can hear music “in the wind, in the air even in the light”. Music that he is determined to follow in the belief that it is the only path to finding his parents — parents he has never met — parents that he is certain are looking for him — and he is willing to bet his very existence on that.
After escaping from the children’s home that is the only home the eleven-year old has ever known, Evan makes his way to New York city, where he falls into a Dickensonian existence of the “Oliver Twist” variety. The “Artful Dodger” in this case is a young and very talented street musician who calls himself Arthur X; Arthur befriends Evan and leads him to the place he calls home — an abandoned theatre which is the domain of a “modern-day “Fagan” who calls himself the Wizard. While staying with the Wizard and his collection of street-corner entertainers Evan discovers that he not only hears music but is, himself, a musical prodigy; within minutes of picking up a guitar he astounds the Wizard and the others by playing like he had been doing it for years while inventing his own unique playing style. A gift like Evan’s is far too rare for the Wizard to pass up — and it is against his greedy nature not to take advantage of it.
The Wizard is played by none other than the normally loveable, laughable man of a thousand characterizations, Robin Williams. Williams occasionally chooses to show his ability to play a character that can be universally loathed and he makes the Wizard truly, unredeemably despicable. You will love to hate Williams as he joyfully sets out to capitalize on Evan’s remarkable ability as a musician and as he develops a vision that would take Evan well beyond the street corner while filling his own pockets. As part of this vision the Wizard renames Evan, August Rush — a name that Evan joyfully adopts and one that stays with him for the rest of the movie.
During a police raid on their theatre home, August and the Wizard are separated. Having nowhere to go, August seeks shelter in a church and there he found people who were genuinely concerned about his welfare and who, after August displayed even greater musical abilities, were determined to find a way for him to nurture his amazing talent.
Some mere months later, August’s musical genius is possibly near its peak; he is a scholarship student at Juilliard (thanks to the church’s pastor) and is the composer/conductor designate of a symphony that the New York Philharmonic is about to play at their annual Concert in Central Park. At that point, the Wizard reenters his life. In his most dispicable act yet, the Wizard, ever the fast-talking con man, manages to convince August to abandon his concert, his scholarship at Juilliard and the people who really care about him, to return to the street corner under his (the Wizard’s) control. What happens next? You’ll find out when you rent or buy the movie.
While all this is going on, in flashbacks we see August’s mother, who thought he had died at birth, discover that he lives, and begin a frantic search for him. At the same time, August’s father, who doesn’t know that he has a son, continues his nearly 12-year search for a girl he only knew for one evening, a girl who turned out to be the only girl he feels he could ever want.
Not a movie for the fan of adrenalin-pumping action or hot and lusty romance, August Rush is, instead, a more cerebral movie about faith, genius, determination, deception and success against all odds.
I don’t believe that any other child star could have surpassed Freddie Highmore’s performance in this movie. As you watch the pure joy on his face when he first picks up that guitar at The Wizard’s lair or later when he discovers a pipe organ at the church where he sought refuge you know you are watching a real-life event; a real-life Evan Taylor/August Rush who not only hears the music but who is rapidly becoming one with the music.